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Ragamuffin 90 takes early lead of Rolex China Sea Race

Posted on 16 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Rolex] A fleet of 34 international yachts started today’s 27th edition of the 565-nm Rolex China Sea Race. With Hong Kong’s impressive skyscraper skyline forming a domineering backdrop, the fleet made a clean start under a steady easterly breeze of eight knots.

The largest competing boat and favourite for line honours Ragamuffin 90 made a positive start, immediately pulling ahead of the fleet following the 13:20 start in Victoria Harbour. Syd Fischer, Ragamuffin’s legendary Australian skipper, was in confident mood dockside. “We believe we can get line honours as long as we don’t make mistakes or sit in a hole which can happen in this shifty weather. We’ve got to pay attention to detail. The golden rule for us is to get between the other boats and the finish!”

At 18:00 local time, Ragamuffin 90 maintained her lead over the fleet and lay some 525-nm from the finish. The four 52-ft yachts – Freefire, Hi Fi, Lucky and Standard Insurance Centennial were in close pursuit travelling at a consistent 10 knots. Ragamuffin 90 was forecasting an ETA at the finish line in Subic Bay, The Philippines of around two days, five hours meaning early Friday evening. That would be some way short of the current race record of 47 hours, 43 minutes.

Start of the Rolex China Sea Race. Hong Kong, 16 April 2014. Photo copyright Rolex / Kurt Arigo

Ernesto Echauz, Standard Insurance Centennial skipper and two-time race winner, was also in buoyant mood. “It is highly competitive race, with excellent sailors and scientific strategies. To win the key components are teamwork, equipment and good routing.” As the only Philippines entry, Echauz knows his crew will receive a warm welcome at the finish in Subic Bay.

“The long term forecast is for it to go light but that’s the South China Sea at this time of year,” explained Alex Johnston, Sailing Manager of organizers the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC). It is going to be a very tactically challenging race.”

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Rolex China Sea Race starts on Wednesday

Posted on 15 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Rolex] Final preparations are underway for the 27th Rolex China Sea Race, Asia’s principal offshore competition which starts tomorrow Wednesday, 16 April. A fleet of 34 yachts from eight countries are expected to make the start line in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong ahead of a 565-nm race through the South China Sea to Subic Bay, The Philippines.

“The Rolex China Sea Race is without question our most important and best known offshore race,” explained Joachim Isler, Commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. “We have competitors from all over the world and it is the first time we have broken the 30-boat threshold in this millennium. We are delighted to see that. In terms of conditions, it should be a medium to light race. It could get tough for the crews in terms of patience at points of very light airs.” Isler, also co-skipper of the 41-ft Ambush, will be taking part in the race for the eighth time.

Among the international entrants is the predominantly American crew onboard Brian Ehrhart’s TP52 Lucky, overall winner of the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race. The Lucky crew includes Australian navigator Adrienne Cahalan, multiple line honours winner at the Rolex Sydney Hobart onboard the all-conquering 100-ft Maxi Wild Oats XI. “This is my first time doing the race and indeed sailing in Hong Kong, The Philippines or the South China Sea,” revealed Cahalan. “I’ve sailed with the team before and there is a nice fleet of TP52s, so we’re looking forward to good close, racing.” Lucky will face strong competition on the water from two TP52 rivals Freefire and Standard Insurance Centennial, the latter skippered by Ernesto Echauz (overall winner in 1998 and 2008).

SEAWOLF, the first crew entirely composed of sailors from mainland China to compete in the race. Hong Kong, 15 April 2014. Photo copyright Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Geoff Hill skippered Genuine Risk to line honours in 2012 and is aiming for a repeat performance this time onboard 72-ft Antipodes (GBR). “This is a real ocean race in the true sense of the word,” explained Hill. “It’s very challenging in terms of the conditions and a true test of seamanship and experience.” Genuine Risk remains favourite for line honours in 2014 although under its new guise as the Syd Fischer-skippered Ragamuffin 90.

The defending champion is Jonathan Mahony’s Humphreys 42 Zanzibar, keen to start off where she finished in 2012. “We signed up for the 2014 race within half an hour of the posting of the Notice of Race,” explained Mahony. “We’ve sailed together for ten years or more and we know each other quite well. Usually in this race you start off with the cold weather in Hong Kong, it is a bit chilly, a bit windy, then it gets warmer and warmer.” No boat has successfully defended its Rolex China Sea Race title since the mid-1960s, a daunting challenge as Mahony admits: “The odds are probably against us as the fleet is larger and stronger this time around and includes many former winners.”

One of those former winners is Rolex China Sea Race veteran Neil Pryde who first competed in the race in 1968 and is aiming to add to his impressive haul of Rolex China Sea Race honours which includes two overall and two line honours victories. “Line honours is probably out of reach considering we have two much bigger boats in the fleet this year but we are certainly looking for a podium position and overall first place is definitely on the agenda,” said Pryde, owner of the Welbourne 52 Hi Fi.

The course record to beat was set by Karl Kwok on his Volvo 60 Beau Geste (elapsed time 47 hours, 43 minutes and 7 seconds) in 2000.

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Alex Thomson sets sails on new Hugo Boss

Posted on 15 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Alex Thmoson Racing] Alex Thomson Racing (ATR) and sponsor, HUGO BOSS are pleased to announce that their new boat is complete and on the water as of 4 April 2014.

Previously named Virbac Paprec 3, this boat has an impressive history which includes placing 4th in the 2012-2013 Vendee Globe after losing its keel, 1st in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race, 2nd place in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet, and 1st place in the 2010 Transat Jacques Vabre. ATR acquired Virbac Paprec 3 for Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes to compete in the upcoming 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race. The team have spent some time refitting and modifying the boat to include a new keel and HUGO BOSS branding. The boat is simply known as ‘HUGO BOSS’ and the ATR team look forward to taking the vastly improved speed machine out on the open ocean from Gosport, UK to Rhode Island, USA next week in preparation for the New York to Barcelona (NY-BCN) race in June.

The new boat is set to depart 22 April 2014 to Newport, Rhode Island where the OCEAN MASTERS New York to Barcelona Race will take place on 1 June 2014. This will be the first event run by Sir Keith Mills’ Lausanne-based Open Sports Management (OSM), commercial rights holder to the IMOCA class and will be supported by the Fundacio per la Navegacio Oceanica Barcelona (FNOB) and the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation (RFEV).
The start of the transatlantic race itself will be off North Cove Marina on Sunday, 1st June. Competitors will sail pass the Statue of Liberty before exiting New York Harbour. The 3700 mile course crosses the North Atlantic, passing through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, where crews will have to negotiate a tactical 525 miles along the Spanish coast before reaching the finish.

The prize giving will be held in Barcelona on 20 June 2014. En route competitors will be out to better the 12 days, 6 hours and 3 minutes course record set by Alex Pella, Pepe Ribes and Stan Schreyer aboard the IMOCA 60 Estrella Damm in 2010.

The ‘HUGO BOSS’ boat will be led by Pepe Ribes and American co-skipper, Ryan Breymaier upon Alex Thomson’s announcement that he will be unable to take part in the NY-BCN race this year due to his wife’s pregnancy and conflicting due date.

Alex said: “This is a bittersweet situation for me; although I am disappointed that I cannot take part in the NY-BCN, I am thrilled that we will be having our second child. I had committed to competing before the official race date had been announced but it turns out that my wife’s due date will conflict and my family must come first, so, as to disrupt the team as little as possible, a replacement co-skipper had to be found. We searched long and hard but found Ryan Breymaier, who will now accompany Pepe Ribes as co-skipper.”

Alex will be with the boat for its delivery to Newport and up until its departure to Barcelona.

ATR’s new American co-skipper, Ryan Breymaier will now complete the NY-BCN alongside Pepe Ribes and is excited about having the opportunity. Ryan said: “I feel so fortunate to have been selected by Pepe, Alex and the rest of the team to take part in this race. I feel honoured to be the only American participant and plan to make both my country and teammates very proud.”

Finding the right co-skipper to accompany Pepe was a challenge and Stewart Hosford, Managing Director of 5 West and ATR commented: “This was not an easy task; finding a compatible co-skipper that has the skill, personality and mind-set to match the rest of the team is quite a challenge. That said, we have selected Ryan, are confident in his ability, and look forward to welcoming him to the team.”

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Rolex China Sea, one week to go

Posted on 11 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Rolex] The 27th edition of the Rolex China Sea Race commences next Wednesday, 16 April. A fleet of around 35 yachts are expected to take part including the defending champion and the line honours winning boat from the last edition in 2012.

The 565-nm offshore race runs across the South China Sea from Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong to Subic Bay, The Philippines. First held in 1962, it has long been established as Asia’s principal offshore race.

Favourite for line honours is the largest competing yacht: Syd Fischer’s Maxi Ragamuffin 90, the fastest boat on the water in 2012 under its guise as Genuine Risk. The defending champion is Jonathan Mahony’s 42-ft Zanzibar from Singapore, seeking to become the first boat since the mid-1960s to defend her title. Three highly competitive TP52s – Lucky, Standard Insurance Centennial and FreeFire – will push the leading boats close.

The course record was set by Karl Kwok on his Volvo 60 Beau Geste (elapsed time 47 hours, 43 minutes and 7 seconds) in 2000.

The 2014 Rolex China Sea Race commences at 13:20 local time on Wednesday 16 April. The race is organized by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2008.

Asia’s principal offshore race starts in a week! Photo copyright Rolex / Daniel Forster

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Francis Joyon has set off on the Friendship Route between Bordeaux and Rio

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Francis Joyon] The French sailor, Francis Joyon crossed the starting line of the Friendship Route in the Gironde Estuary aboard the IDEC maxi trimaran at 1433hrs UTC today (Tuesday 8th April 2014).

In a moderate Easterly wind, which is due to strengthen, Francis Joyon set out to tackle this brand new record between Bordeaux and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). He therefore doesn’t have any particular time to aim for, but is determined to set the best reference time possible on this voyage across the Atlantic in aid of charity. Joyon did not have to wait long to get underway: he only went on stand-by last Friday evening…

Francis Joyon, “It’s always exciting to open up a new route, particularly when it is in aid of a noble cause like the ICM. This transatlantic crossing is rather special due to its length and destination, as it resembles the start of a round the world voyage. What we’re trying to do here is to set an initial reference time and not to smash an existing record, but I saw for myself when I set off on the route to Mauritius that it is not always that simple. You still find yourself alone aboard a 30-metre long multihull, which is designed to be sailed quickly.”

In aid of the ICM

We should add that this new record between Bordeaux and Rio de Janeiro is designed to be a symbol of the friendship linking the two nations of France and Brazil. It brings together ambassadors from both countries, including personalities from the world of sport, the arts, as well as from business and the media. They are united to offer their support to various charity organisations, including the ICM, the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute.

For this brand new route involving sailing more than 4800 nautical miles (9000 km) across the Atlantic, the big red trimaran will be flying the Sail of Hope as a headsail. This was signed in France and will shortly be signed in Brazil by all of the ambassadors from both nations that have come together around this project. This sail will later be auctioned at the end of 2014 at a special gala event in Paris. All of the proceeds will be handed over to charities and to the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute.

Francis Joyon was the first sailor to win the Ultimate Trophy. He is the only one to have held the following four records at the same time:

- Round the world record: 57 days 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds, February 2008 (still the record today)
- North Atlantic record: 5 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds, June 2013 (still the record today)
- 24-hour distance record: 666.2 miles sailed in July 2012
- Columbus Route record (Cadiz – Sans Salvador): 8 days 16 hours 7 minutes and 5 seconds, February 2013

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Vatti and Ubox victorious in IRC-B divisions at Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta

Posted on 30 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta] Vatti, with two-time Olympic gold medalist Malcolm Page calling tactics, prevailed in the IRC-B2 division of China’s premier offshore regatta while Ubox took the top spot in the IRC-B1 division, after setting a record time for the Wanning to Sanya offshore race.

As the sun was setting over the horizon on Sanya bay on Thursday evening, a day of close and exciting offshore racing was coming to a close. An 18-strong fleet of boats departed from Wanning earlier in the morning and sailed to Sanya in a tricky 60-nm race that would make tacticians scratch their heads and produce surprises and upsets.

After a slow start in Wanning due to the very light breeze, the fleet picked up pace as the winds got stronger until the race’s first waypoint where they completely shut out. The fleet then compressed, the leaders came to a standstill, while the laggards had a a unique opportunity to close their gap in real time and notch up in corrected time.

Ubox sets record time in the offshore race from Wanning to Sanya and wins in the IRC-B1 division. Sanya, 28 March 2014. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann / Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta

As Malcolm Page commented, “today’s long race was a tricky one. It didn’t seem to be a leader’s race. The wind would die and people from behind would pass through with more pressure, making things more difficult. Overall, I think our team improved every day, probably except for today where we made things a little bit more difficult for ourselves.”

Ubox managed to keep their lead and went on to take line honours, crossing the finishing line off Sanya Serenity Marina after 9:16 hours, new record time for the race. Vatti were second in real time, with a time of 10:51 hours, but it was the two Dongfeng boats that claimed the two top spots. John Thorn and his Chinese crew got bragging rights over Brian Thompson, the British round-the-world record man, and his teammates by 6 minutes.

Despite taking third place in the offshore race from Wanning to Sanya, Vatti was the overall winner in the IRC-B1 division, thanks to her performance in the Sanya in-port races and her commanding victory in the offshore race from Sanya to Wanning. Vatti scored two bullets and a second in the the three in-port races in Sanya and crossed the finish line off Shi Mei Bay marina in Wanning, more than one hour ahead of second-placed 500 Wan.

For Malcolm Page, the Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta was an excellent opportunity to keep building the Vatti team. According to Page, “every day we took it up another level and became sharper. It takes a little bit of time to put three different nationalities on one boat but we were very successful. My Mandarin vocabulary is a lot stronger now and I’m sure the English level of our Chinese sailors is now much better. It’s always good to get a good result and we now feel more confident for the Chinese summer season ahead of us.”

Watti finish third in the offshore race from Wanning to Sanya and wins in the IRC-B2 division. Sanya, 28 March 2014. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann / Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta

Wang Lei and his crew onboard Ubox had a considerably easier time claiming overall victory in the IRC-B1 division. Entirely crewed by Chinese sailors, the Shenzhen-based boat scored two bullets and a third in the Sanya in-port races and then went on to completely dominate in the first offshore race from Sanya to Wanning. They crossed the finish line after 9:27 hours, four hours in real time ahead of second-placed Haiyi, or a bit more two and a half in corrected.

Ubox set a record time in the Wanning to Sanya offshore leg but, in a situation similar to Vatti’s, the tricky conditions favored the smaller boats behind her. The race was won by Liangchuan, a 46 footer, that crossed the line two hours later but was ahead by 20 minutes in corrected time.

The IRC-B1 and IRC-B2 divisions proved to be the most competitive ones, providing the closest racing and setting the foundations for another exciting regatta in 2015.

Racing from Wanning to Sanya. Sanya, 28 March 2014. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann / Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta

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Round Hainan Regatta marks five-year milestone with record number of entries

Posted on 20 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Round Hainan Regatta] Famous for being China’s only tropical island with a tropical monsoon climate, Hainan isn’t just one of the country’s top vacation spots. The surrounding waters and wind conditions as well as the world class marinas make Hainan the ideal and natural venue for hosting international sailing events.

Created in 2010 by the Chinese Yachting Association (CYA) and strongly backed by the government, the Round Hainan Regatta forms part of the plan to place the island on the world sailing map and develop sailing-related business. It is one of China’s major international sailing events, starting and finishing in Sanya, at the island’s southernmost tip. Sanya played host to a hugely successful Volvo Ocean Race stopover in 2012 and will again repeat next February.

Now in its fifth edition, the regatta has grown by leaps and bounds, having increased in quantity and, equally importantly, quality. A total of 372 sailors from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Italy, The Netherlands, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany and France will take part this year. The island’s tropical climate combined with the close and demanding sailing the regatta provides are obvious attractions for European and North American sailors, giving local crews the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest names and hone their skills.

Preparations for the Round Hainan Regatta 2014

The 45-strong fleet is divided this year into five divisions, IRC A, IRC B, Beneteau Oceanis 40, Soto 27 and for the first time ever Fareast 26. All classes will start on March 21st with two days of in-port races in Sanya, including one Pro-Am for the IRC A, IRC B and Beneteau Oceanis 40 classes that will mix sponsors and media with crews for a first-hand experience in yacht racing.

The one-design Soto 27 and Fareast 26 fleets will conclude their participation in the fifth edition of the Round Hainan Regatta on March 23rd with their third day of in-port races in Sanya.

On the same day, the IRC A’s and Beneteau Oceanis 40′s will embark on the 470-mile long round-the-island race in two stages. The first one will take them from Sanya to Haikou, sailing along the island’s west coast. After a lay day in Haikou and another one of in-port races in Haikou, the fleet will depart from the island’s capital on March 26th and head back to Sanya, this time along the east coast.

The IRC B’s will hold a long coastal race around the East and West island on Sanya bay on March 23rd and after a lay day will head on the 25th to Wanning, on the east coast of the island. After a coastal race around the islands of Zhouzai and Jiajing on the 26th, the fleet will set sail on March 27th towards Sanya where it will join the IRC A’s for the cosing and prize-giving ceremony on the 28th.

The IRC A favorites are Maibo, the Chinese JV52 skippered by Yi Wu. The IRC B class will, undoubtedly, steal the spotlight as it combines star-studded foreign entries, Chinese Volvo Ocean Race aspiring sailors as well as seasoned Chinese participants. The form guide favors Vatti, a Beneteau F40.9 from Shenzen that scored a commanding victory in last year’s race. Skipper Jono Rankine has assembled a crew made up of local sailors and big-name Australians and New Zealanders such as Malcolm Page, gold medalist in the 470 class in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Preparations for the Round Hainan Regatta 2014

Team Dongfeng, the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race entry, will also take part in the IRC B division with two boats, crewed by aspiring Chinese sailors, making this its first participation in a major sailing event on home waters.

For the first time ever, organizers will provide a fleet of Beneteau Oceanis 40′s giving overseas competitors that cannot bring their own boat the opportunity to take part. All five boats of the fleet will be crewed by Russians, members of YC Navygator.

The high-octane one-design Soto 27 class will be represented by a total of ten entries. GMGE/Koo Racing stands out as the favorite, being crewed by some of Asia’s finest match racers. Malaysia’s siblings Tiffany and Jeremy Koo will be joined by Singapore’s top match racer Maximilian Soh and two Chinese sailors.

In yet another first, organizers will provide six Fareast 26′s, giving talented Chinese sailors the opportunity to race in a top-level event. This proves the commitment of organizers to develop high-quality Chinese athletes and grow the sport of sailing in the country.

The weather forecast calls for a couple of light-air first days, with a breeze between 5 and 10 knots, but conditions will later strengthen and the wind will reach up to 20 knots in the final days.

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International Maxi Association supports RORC Transatlantic Race

Posted on 11 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Royal Ocean Racing Club] The International Maxi Association (IMA) has joined forces with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in the organisation of the inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race and will be awarding an exquisite vintage sterling silver trophy to the Line Honours winner.

The IMA invites the expanding Maxi fleet to a new format of a classic autumn competition, starting from Puerto Calero, Lanzarote on 29 November and racing 2,800 n miles across the Atlantic to the inviting waters of Grenada in the Caribbean.

IMA Secretary General, Andrew McIrvine is pleased with the RORC association for the race:

“The IMA’s support will provide a resounding endorsement of RORC’s new Transatlantic Race which has a strong future. With time, it will attract a large and competitive fleet that aspire to a real challenge and strong competition in a warm-water race to the Caribbean. The IMA are pleased to support the RORC organisation and are delighted that the beautiful island of Grenada has been chosen for the finish of the race. The IMA will continue the partnership with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda with a planned rally and party at its yacht club in British Virgin Gorda following the finish of the RORC Transatlantic Race.”

Line honours victory for Hap Fauth’s American Mini Maxi, Bella Mente in action during the recent
RORC Caribbean 600 . Photo copyright Tim Wright/

The International Maxi Association has been expanding its activities since 2010 when the first Mini Maxi World Championship took place in Porto Cervo, Italy with 24 entries from two continents and 49 Maxis participating in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Its growing membership boasts 12 Honorary Members and 60 Members with boats such as RÁN; Sojana; Alegre; Bella Mente and Nilaya regularly competing in the RORC’s international racing programme of over 20 races, including the RORC Caribbean 600 and Rolex Fastnet Race.

It is anticipated that a strong fleet of Maxi, Mini-Maxi and Superyachts will take part in the inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race which also allows them to compete in Caribbean regattas before heading back to the yacht racing season both sides of the Atlantic.

Grenada Tourism Authority with Camper and Nicholsons Marinas, will host the first edition of the race to the spice island of Grenada which will also act as a set-up for The Atlantic Ocean Racing Series. This quadrennial event is run jointly by the New York Yacht Club, Royal Yacht Squadron, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club. Starting in February 2015 with the RORC Caribbean 600, followed by the Transatlantic Race from Newport R.I. to England, the Rolex Fastnet Race and finally the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

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